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Ohio warned: fraud in unemployment program could be just the start

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau

A contractor working with the state on the fraudulent claims filed and processed through the Ohio Department of Job and Family services says other state agencies should be on the alert.

LexisNexis got a $2 million contract to help the state find and fight fraudulent pandemic-related jobless claims and overpayments that have cost more than $2 billion.

Its CEO of government business Haywood Talcove told the Unemployment Compensation and Modernization Council that could be just the beginning.

“My belief is when tax season starts, watch out," Talcove said. "Because you better have systems in place to address this issue, because if you – what they stole from unemployment is going to look like kid’s play from what they steal from the treasury."

In August, ODJFS said it had paid out $478 million in fraudulent claims in both the traditional unemployment benefits program and the federal pandemic unemployment assistance program set up to help people who didn't qualify for traditional unemployment.

Talcove also said other state agencies should be paying attention.

“Unemployment insurance was the canary in the coal mine. I guarantee you they are headed into your department of revenue, they are headed into your food stamp program, they are headed into the Medicaid program," Talcove said.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services noted a performance review from the state auditor's office said months of unusually high demand, staffing shortages, an antiquated processing system and four new unemployment programs created the opportunity for fraud.

Some Democratic lawmakers have called for a cyber security investigation into the cause and extent of the fraud and what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again.

Most of the losses for ODJFS were in non-fraudulent overpayments. Almost $3.4 billion was paid out: $586 million in non-fraudulent traditional claims and $2.8 billion non-fraud payments in the federal pandemic assistance program.

The state has set up a system for people who were overpaid through no fault of their own to apply for waivers to avoid having to pay that money back.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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